Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Frank S. Joseph's Notes on the June '09 American Independent Writers Conference

Novelist Frank S. Joseph recently shared with his e-mail list his notes on the excellent June '09 American Independent Writers Conference, and with his permission, I herewith share them with you:

Dear Writer List:

Following is from my notes of the American Independent Writers annual meeting last Saturday 6/13 in D.C.:

Panelists: Four fiction agents

You must sell 100,000 copies in one week to break into national best-seller lists.

Panelists agreed on a number: 75% of projects they represent get sold (eventually).

Blog by Chuck Sambuchino was mentioned approvingly, "Guide to Literary Agents"

A self-published book must sell 5,000 copies to get an agent's attention, panelists agree.

Panelists: Four nonfiction agents

What's Selling Now:
* Barnes & Noble's shelf categories, and Amazon's ways of characterizing books, have had a big impact on editors in terms of genres they are looking for

* So books that cross or combine genres are more challenging to sell

* "Practical" self-help categories are selling well -- children's, cooking, health, gardening, home, "retro" subjects related to the down economy

* A great "platform" is great to have (viz., Harvard Medical School); 'Get famous first, then write your book'

* For major publishers, 20-30,000 copies is a viable hardcover project; for university presses, 15,000 copies.

* Big sales of your first book are crucial for your subsequent career as an author.

(This was a terrific, inspiring address -- KD is one great speaker)

* Be a good liar

* Learn how to read

* Workshop or don't as you prefer ("you can't be taught to be a writer" -- you just have to practice, fail, then "fail better")

* Write what you want to write; write for love; write for yourself

* "Literature is an endless source of courage and confirmation"

* Don't be afraid

* Be stubborn, persistent; "take no for an answer with dignity and grace"

* Publishers Marketplace is now available online for a fee -- searchable database

* Poem: "Expect everything, and anything is nothing/Expect nothing, and anything is everything"

* Pay attention to publishing as a business

* A great deal depends on nexus/circumstance/chance

* Find a champion; a VP of Amazon fell in love with "The Stolen Child" and made the novel a success before it was ever published

* "In the end, nobody in the publishing business knows how to do this, especially in fiction"

* Be willing to(self) promote your book

* "Remember how and why you are a storyteller"

-- Frank S. Joseph

P.S. I also posted some notes about the "Other Times, Other Places" AIW conference panel I moderated with novelists Wayne Karlin, Olga Grushin, and Frederick Reuss. More anon.